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The Ruby Group | Akron and Columbus, OH

How was your close rate last week? 100 percent? Probably not. How about 80 percent? No? 50? 20? Ummm, 5?

If you’re like most salespeople (or business owners involved in sales), you were likely on the lower end of that scale, for sure. Achieving a 20 to 30 percent close rate is considered strong, compared to the average.

However, did you know if you just changed a few things, you could improve that percentage in a big way? It’s not rocket science, but it does involve a change in mentality. Since adjusting my own mindset around sales and business in this way, I’ve seen close rates of anywhere from 50 to 80 percent in a given month.

What if half of everyone you met with became a client? Imagine how much time you’d save. Think about the commission or income this would generate for you and/or your company!

In this two-part series, I’ll share five reasons why you didn’t convert more of those prospects into clients…and what you can do to improve.

Mistake #1: No established expertise

Think back to one of those opportunities lost. How were you perceived before you even walked in the door? Did Mrs. Prospect have a preconceived idea of what you could do for her? Or, did you walk in and have to start from scratch to build credibility?

Two things you can do here.

First, position yourself as an expert in your industry. One way you can do this is through social media – for example, using LinkedIn to share knowledge and relevant information your prospects and customers can use, or regularly writing a blog that addresses trends and topics in your industry. It’s likely Mrs. Prospect did a little research on you before you came in for the meeting. If your LinkedIn profile hadn’t been updated since May 2009, that says something about you!

Second, send “homework” before the meeting. One of the most effective tactics I’ve implemented over the last couple years is to send a short questionnaire to the prospect prior to getting together. This will be different for everyone, but you can see what ours looks like: http://www.joltcms.com/homework (password “homework”). And here’s what The Ruby Group uses as homework: http://www.therubygroup.sandler.com/forms/show/3023

The goal is to gather some valuable information BEFORE you walk into the meeting. This can include as few as five questions or it can go much deeper; your product/service or industry will determine what you need to address in yours. The homework process does three things: 1) gathers valuable information, 2) gets you prepared for the meeting and 3) shows the client you’re on top of things!

Mistake #2: No expectations for the meeting

Did your meeting start with something like this from Mrs. Prospect: “I’m looking for someone to get me this widget for under $50. Can you do that?” (or some variation related to your specific product or service)

This puts you in a defensive mode from the start, doesn’t it? Don’t feel bad. It’s how most first-time conversations start. But, it doesn’t have to be that way. Next time this happens, here’s what you say: “Possibly. But, can we take a step back for a minute?” Then, I want you to address four points:

  1. TIME: Confirm how much time you have today. (Hopefully, this was set prior to the meeting, and you’re just reiterating.)
  2. HER AGENDA: Find out what’s on her mind – when your time is up, what does she need in order to feel like it was a good meeting?
  3. YOUR AGENDA: Share your agenda – what do you hope will come of the meeting?
  4. OUTCOME: Discuss next steps – there are three options that could happen at the end of your time together: Yes, no or a clear next step (This one point could be it’s own blog post – and probably will be at some point – but for now, the idea is for your prospect to understand that some kind of decision will need to be made today. It might be that there’s a good fit and moving forward is logical. It’s also possible there will NOT be a fit, and that’s okay. Or it may be best to take some other step – schedule a follow up meeting, etc.)

Assuming you sent over a few homework questions, the second and third points above should just be a review to confirm nothing has changed since the meeting was scheduled.

Setting expectations up front is crucial. If you’re not clear about these things, you can’t be upset when it doesn’t end up moving in the right direction.


We’ll address the three more reasons next week. In the meantime, consider creating your own homework process. I’m telling you, this will be HUGE for you!

Matt White is owner of JoltCMS, where he helps businesses help their customers.

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